Seahawks Insider Blog

Top rookie Germain Ifedi stands up to Michael Bennett, earns team street cred

Rookie right guard Germain Ifedi (76), shown here in minicamp in May, stonewalled and incensed Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett during practice Monday. It was the third day of Seahawks training camp in Renton.
Rookie right guard Germain Ifedi (76), shown here in minicamp in May, stonewalled and incensed Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett during practice Monday. It was the third day of Seahawks training camp in Renton. phaley@thenewstribune.com

The top rookie draft pick shuffled to his right and dug his spikes into the turf.

Opposite him, the veteran, Pro Bowl defensive end kept charging like a helmeted bull. His face mask and shoulders barreled into the newbie.

Yet Germain Ifedi refused to yield to Michael Bennett. This pass-rush drill was a stalemate.

That infuriated one of the NFL’s best pass rushers. A rookie eight years his junior, from the same college program at Texas A&M, denying Bennett the free path into opposing backfields he’s enjoyed for most of the last couple Seahawks seasons? Not without Bennett getting in some extra jabs afterward.

He became so incensed he ripped off his helmet following the whistle that ended their draw. Hatless, he went after the still-helmeted Ifedi. Ifedi counter-charged at Bennett. Pushing and shoving ensued. Bennett continued screaming at the rookie -- even after dozens of offensive and defensive linemen plus their coaches intervened.

About five minutes later in Monday morning’s juicy, training-camp pass-rush drill, Bennett and Ifedi faced off again. Ifedi stood up Bennett again, and this time the rookie won. Bennett could not gain ground on his team’s first-round draft choice. Some more pushing and jawing later, coaches had to separate the two former Aggies again.

Seattle’s first day in shoulder pads, its third day of camp in a five-minute span on the back-most practice field in Renton, may go down as the time Germain Ifedi proved he was worth that 31st-overall pick in May’s draft. Not to mention the starting right-guard job, which the Seahawks have just about handed him since day one of rookie minicamp.

Ifedi not only solidified his claim on that job with what he did to and against Bennett. He won over his new teammates -- and his new head coach.

“I didn’t get to see the pass-rush drill, but I know there was a little A&M issue going on down there, which is fun,” said Pete Carroll, who was about 50 yards away watching quarterbacks and receivers work against defensive backs at the time Ifedi and Bennett were skirmishing, but Ifedi’s performance was so noteworthy an assistant informed the coach about it.

“That’s who he is,” Carroll said of Ifedi. “He’s shown that throughout.

“There’s nothing wrong with that. He’s very aggressive, very tough.”

And big. Ifedi is listed as 6 feet 5 and 325 pounds. He looks even bigger than that in his blue, 76 practice jersey over shoulder pads. His wingspan is as wide as Shaquille O’Neal is tall (85 inches).

And now, after Monday, Ifedi’s Seahawks street cred is as big as he is.

“Being willing to stand up for himself on the first day,” the coach said, nodding and grinning approvingly, “pretty good.”

The Seahawks’ offensive line remains the large -- make that, mammoth -- issue within a camp that so far has been noticeably lively, fresh and sharp. Here’s a look at Justin Britt, the former right tackle and left guard now the top candidate to start at center, against rookie second-round draft choice Jarran Reed from Alabama on Monday.

The line is likely to have new starters in all five positions, including Britt. That’s in the wake of left tackle Russell Okung signing with Denver and right guard J.R. Sweezy signing as a free agent with Tampa Bay this spring -- for $24 million more than the $8.3 million Ifedi will earn in the first four years of his rookie contract.

But after what Ifedi did Monday, right guard may be just fine.

Bennett was in good spirits after the two-hour practice, smiling and greeting visitors on the field and asking how folks were doing. His veteran defensive-end partner implied Bennett may have been trying to test or send a message to the new blocker.

“It’s all about competing, trying to see where (Ifedi’s) head is at, also letting him know that, ‘Hey, we’re not soft,’ as well,” Cliff Avril said. “But it’s all fun and games, we keep it on the field.

“I’ll probably go punch (Bennett) in the gut once we get in the locker room or something.”

Avril might think twice about joking like that with Ifedi.

Ifedi had the reputation at Texas A&M for being nasty not just in games but in practices while as a three-year starter in college at right tackle and at guard. He became known there as a mean counter to the spread, no-huddle, finesse game the Aggies play. That’s precisely what attracted the Seahawks to him. While many others saw his school and thought “another Texas A&M spread guy who can’t adjust to the NFL game, Seattle’s veteran line coach Tom Cable, the team’s scouting staff with general manager John Schneider plus Carroll all saw a ill-tempered thumper on the field.

What I saw Monday against Bennett reminded me of what Schneider said of Ifedi the night the Seahawks made him their highest-drafted lineman since James Carpenter out of Alabama in 2011.

“He’s one of those guys that just moves people and plays with a nasty streak,” Seattle’s GM said April 28.

“I went to Kansas (to scout) and that was my first school call this year, and Troy Kema (who formerly worked at A&M) is their academic advisor there. He was like, ‘You can ask me about all these guys at Kansas, and you can ask me about all the guys at Texas A&M, and I’m just going to tell you one thing: If you don’t draft Germain Ifedi you have no idea what you’re doing.’ I was like, ‘All right.’ That was our first conference and I was like, ‘I guess we’re drafting Germain Ifedi.”

It wasn’t that simple, of course.

But Monday, it sure looked wise.

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